Retailers in Favor of Bill Requiring Congress to OK Tariff Increases

Retailers in Favor of Bill Requiring Congress to OK Tariff Increases
Trade groups such as the NRF maintain that tariffs are a tax on imports that negatively affects U.S. consumers and workers

The National Retail Federation (NRF) and other industry organizations -- including the grocery sector -- have expressed support for legislation that would bolster congressional authority over tariff hikes such as those imposed by the Trump administration over the past year.

“We agree with the need to deliver fair and balanced trade deals, but taxing Americans isn’t the answer — especially without a single vote from Congress,” noted David French, SVP for government relations at Washington, D.C.-based NRF, the world’s largest trade association. “At a time when American businesses and consumers are facing unprecedented tariffs imposed unilaterally, it’s time to re-examine the appropriate balance on trade policy between Congress and the executive branch. This legislation represents an important step forward. We urge members of both parties to join this effort and protect hardworking Americans from a growing trade war that could destroy thousands of jobs and raise costs for families across the country.”

“NGA supports free trade and open access to markets that allow independent grocers to supply shoppers with quality, affordable offerings," said Molly Pfaffenroth, director of government relations for the Arlington, Va.-based National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the independent supermarket operators and wholesalers. "Tariffs hurt small businesses, including family-owned and privately held grocery operators, and we hope the administration and Congress will work together to find solutions that do not include a tax hike in the form of tariffs.”

Introduced by Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Trade Subcommittee, the Reclaiming Congressional Trade Authority Act would limit any new or additional tariffs imposed on national-security grounds — among them those under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act or the Trading with the Enemy Act — to 120 days unless approved by Congress. Section 232 was the grounds for tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed in 2018.

The proposed legislation would increase and formalize Congress’ role in non-national-security tariffs, including those under Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, the law under which recent tariffs on goods from China were imposed. The administration would have to offer Congress goals and strategy behind proposed tariff actions, and the legislature would be able to block the tariffs through a joint resolution of disapproval, subject to presidential veto.

The measure, which would additionally require the administration to provide Congress with further information on both national-security and non-national-security tariffs, is a companion bill to legislation introduced in March by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

NRF maintains that tariffs are a tax on imports that drive up prices of consumer merchandise while raising the cost of parts and materials used by U.S. companies to manufacture domestic products, ultimately putting many Americans out of work.

Tariffs of 25 percent have already been imposed on $250 billion in goods from China, and the expansion of the tariffs to virtually all Chinese imports by imposing the same levy on another $300 billion is currently under consideration. NRF testified at a June 21 hearing held by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, asking the administration to rethink its strategy in regard to China.

Other organizations backing the bill include the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the American Bakers Association and Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a national campaign supported by more than 150 of the U.S.'s largest trade associations representing retail, tech, manufacturing and agriculture.

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